Oct 17, 2011 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
In the upcoming Skaneateles town elections, scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 8, the only contested race is for town justice. Republican and incumbent justice Kathleen Dell is running for reelection against Democrat and former village trustee Tim Lynn.
The town justice position is allocated to be a 20-hour-per-week position, with a pay of approximately $15,000 per year.
The Skaneateles Press conducted interviews with both candidates in order to bring our readers the following profiles. Based on these interviews and other research, the Press also has made a candidate endorsement, which can be found in the editorial section of this week’s newspaper.
Republican candidate Kathleen H. Dell is a graduate of Powelson Business Institute’s legal secretarial program.
She has worked as a secretary in the stockholder relations department of New York State Electric and Gas, at the Syracuse law firm of Melvin & Melvin and for the general counsel of Agway, Inc.
Dell took time out of the work force to be a stay-at-home mother until her daughter entered school full time, then returned to the workforce as a deputy court clerk in Skaneateles Town Court starting in 1992.
Dell served as court clerk from 1996 to 2007, and in July 2007 was appointed to fill the vacant seat of town justice. That November, she was elected as Skaneateles town justice to a four-year term, and currently is the incumbent judge. Since February 2010, Dell also has served as the part-time secretary to the Onondaga County Court judge.
During her years as court clerk and town justice, Dell attended all the annual training and certification courses for both professions, and also numerous elective training courses. The presenters at the various conferences she attended were representatives of multiple organizations, such as the department of motor vehicles, the state comptroller’s office, division of criminal justice services, members of various law enforcement agencies and the NYS Magistrate’s Association.
“This is what I do; my whole experience has been in the court. . . This is my community; this is what I love,” Dell said in an interview with the Skaneateles Press when asked why she is running for reelection.
Dell said she never saw herself as a judge. “I was very, very happy and fulfilled being the court clerk, it’s an important position,” she said, but when Town Justice James Matthews decided to retire in 2007, he encouraged Dell to run for the position. “I was 55 years old and thought: if I don’t take a shot at this now I never will.”
Dell said the only philosophy she can and does take to the bench with her is a commitment to fairness, accountability and justice.
“I’m fair, even-tempered, professional, and I believe in accountability,” Dell said. “Everybody makes a mistake and that’s okay, but if it is unlawful they need to be held accountable.”
She said her years as a stay-at-home mom were “some of the best years of my life,” and have influenced her work as a justice. “Yes, many times I do take on that mother tone,” she said with a laugh.
Dell said organization is a key component of the job. The town justice is responsible for ensuring the court clerk accomplishes his or her job completely and thoroughly; a judge’s case notes must be accurate because those notes are the court record (there is no stenographer in town justice court), and on appeal those notes rule the case.
Dell said she is dedicated to her position as town justice and frequently takes work home with her. “Of course, you’re on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week for arraignments . . . You don’t get to call in sick on court nights; certainly things happen but you have to be there for trials and hearings. They involve a number of people and so you can’t just on a dime change something: it costs people money, it costs people time.”
Dell said she has no aspirations for higher office and is committed to filling the full four-year term if elected. “I’m very happy here and want to stay. I’d like to stay for several more terms,” she said.
Dell is a quiet person who does her work and maintains a low public profile. “I think that’s suitable to the office,” she said.
Dell has been campaigning in recent weeks by going door-to-door around the village, meeting people and putting up yard signs.
“I feel people should vote for me because I have the experience, it’s what I’ve done for 20 years. I love what I do, and I do it well. I work hard — it’s important to me. Every person and every case matters,” she said.
Dell has been endorsed by the Conservative, Independent and Veterans Parties.
Democrat candidate Tim Lynn is a graduate of Skaneateles High School, class of 1989, College of Holy Cross (1993) and Cornell University Law School (1996).
He is a member at Green & Seifter, Attorneys, PLLC, where he has been practicing law for 15 years with experiences in various courts and administrative agencies such as bankruptcy, criminal litigation, tax law and economic development. He has served as a small claims arbiter in the Syracuse City Court, as a law guardian for children for several years and as a Skaneateles Village trustee from 2007-11.
Lynn is a past president of the Skaneateles Chamber of Commerce, is a member of the United Way Hamilton White Society, former member of the Syracuse Symphony Foundation and coaches youth hockey with his son’s team.
“I try to find a number of ways to be involved with the community. … I’ve known a lot of town judges and been around judges and courts and lawyers for years, and I’ve never known a town judge who didn’t love the job. For me, you have an impact on the whole community and you also have the opportunity to impact individual lives, sometimes dramatically,” Lynn said in an interview with the Skaneateles Press when asked why he is running for election.
Lynn said the philosophy he would take to the bench with him is a commitment to treat every person who appears before him with equality and fairness.
Lynn said he has no close relationships with either defense attorneys or prosecutors, which is one of the strengths he brings to the position.
During law school Lynn clerked for then-State Supreme Court Judge Charlie Major. “Charlie Major is the perfect example of a good judge: he’s very fair, everyone is equally treated by him, and when they leave the courtroom, whether or not they liked the decision, they knew they were heard,” Lynn said.
Lynn said he is “always busy; I don’t like to be idle.” He works at his law firm, spends 20 to 30 hours per week coaching his son’s hockey team, and is interested in the community.
Lynn said he loves hockey, and that coaching his son’s team is also a way to spend time with his son. “Hockey is a perfect sport in that there is a big commitment of time, but your kids end up spending inordinate amount of times with you. He’s at the age at 11 where things are starting to come up that are more important than your family, but this way he is still with me all the time and loves every minute of it,” Lynn said.
He said the town justice court will have a “significant schedule,” but his law firm is flexible and understanding in his hours, especially if he is elected town justice. “I’m never worried about overextending,” he said.
Lynn said he has the necessary organizational skills to perform the town justice position. “I have extensive experience in managing budgets and funds, from the village board to my own law firm to being president of the local chamber of commerce,” he said. “I have no fear of numbers; that won’t be a difficult part of the job.”
Lynn said he has no aspirations for higher political office and is committed to filling the full four-year term if elected. “I run for this to be involved in my community,” he said. “I don’t foresee any reason why I would want to leave the job. I expect I will probably want it to continue beyond four years.”
Lynn has been campaigning in recent weeks by going door-to-door around the village, meeting people and putting up yard signs.
“I have 15 years of legal experience with a very diverse background in every level of New York state law and will bring a new perspective to the position,” he said.
Lynn has not been endorsed by organizations other than the Democrat party. He said he has a lot of crossover support from various parties and political persuasions, but he has not sought out any endorsements. “I think it’s a personal choice,” he said. “I’m not a political creature and I personally vote for the person.”
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.